Of course, web based meetings are ‘greener’ than face-to-face ones and can reach audiences it would not be possible to reach any other way. There are practically no venue costs or travel costs and it is possible to start a web meeting instantly. All these all add up to a compelling argument for the adoption of Webinar technology.
However, in a rush to promote these aspects of Webinars, managers often get the idea that online events can and should be put on at low or no cost (apart from webinar software fees, teleconferencing etc.) by low-paid, non-specialist staff.
This ignores two of the four Webinar Quick Tips Pillars of Webinar Effectiveness – the importance of preparation and the essential hosting skills needed.
To try and combat this, I always encourage managers to justify to me why an online event should have less preparation time and money spent on it than a face-to-face event.
If 10 or 100 of your most important clients or audience were attending a physical meeting, you’d put a lot of effort in – so why would you not do the same for a Webinar?
I realise of course that part of attraction of Webinars is precisely that lack of cost but it shouldn’t be seen as no cost – particularly in terms of the specialist hosting needed, the technical back-up and preparation time.
In these web-enabled days of social media, a badly prepared or presented Webinar can be just as damaging or even more damaging to the reputation of the organisation than a face-to-face event. People who attend Webinars are usually much more likely to talk online about their experiences, after all.
So how can you help managers understand the importance of spending precious time and money on Webinar preparation and hosting?
You could try working out a selection of face-to-face problems and their virtual equivalents:
- F2F delegates can’t find the venue because no proper directions have been given
- Webinar attendees can’t get into Webinar software because no proper, bespoke instructions have been given
- F2F delegates can’t hear the presenter
- Voice over IP is not appropriate for the Webinar audience
- Lack of comfort breaks in F2F means the session is ineffective by being too long
- In a long Webinar, use of teleconference is physically too demanding for the audience who find it dificult to hold a phone
- Proper feedback sheets and contact detail collection are not implemented in F2f
- The Webinar is not properly set up to capture attendee details and there is no feedback form to fill in before the end of the session
You will be able to think of many more, compelling equivalents.
…make sure you insist on plenty of time to prepare for Webinars and also enough time for the proper training of the hosting team. Make sure managers know the practical risks of not paying attention to these warnings and ensure that just as much time, effort and money is used to prepare more effective Webinars as is devoted to major face-to-face events.